UFC 151 What a Cluster F***

UFC 151 What a Cluster F***

Seriously. Is there yet another dramatic development we could have added to this mish-mash of mischanceful mayhem? I’m half expecting  to read about Randy Couture having called Dana White to come out of retirement and save the event. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, (Why are you reading this?) here’s the breakdown.

there was a big event scheduled for September 1st 2012. UFC 151 featured their biggest rising star, most dominant competitor, and youngest champion to date: Jon Jones. Young Bones was slated to face MMA veteran, and legitimate contender for the title of “Greatest ever,” Former Pride/Strikeforce/UFC 17  tournament Champion: Dan Henderson. It was a clash of the old guard vs. the new, and the emerging victor would have been well positioned to make a solid claim on being the best Fighter to ever wear UFC gold. Instead there was a bunch of squabbling, a witch hunt, and enough blame being thrown around to break every neighbor’s window.

Dan Henderson got injured and pulled out of the fight 8 days before the deadline. Dana White scrambled to find a replacement, offering shots to both Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua, neither of whom wanted to chance a second duel against the Light Heavyweight champ without a full 3 month camp to prepare. So a somewhat unlikely yet extremely marketable challenger stepped up. Chael Sonnen, who recently decided to move up in weight, and was scheduled to take on a far less intimidating prospect in Forest Griffin, had already been doing his part to piss Jon Jones off. How? By publicly berating him in classic Sonnen style; in interviews, twitter, facebook, anywhere Jones was likely to look. Jones felt that Sonnen was alternately too dangerous and undeserving of a title shot. In his own words:

“Why would I put a world championship on the line against a very dangerous opponent, but a person that hasn’t remotely [put] himself in the position to win a world title?” Jones said. … “That’s like hitting a jackpot. I refuse to be anyone’s jackpot.”

The direct result of him refusing the fight? Dana White does what he does best, and flips his lid at a press conference, putting the young star, (and biggest draw for the company) on blast for the millions and millions around the world, cancelling the entire event, and laying the blame squarely on Jon Jones’ shoulders.

I’ve gotta say normally I’m a pretty big Dana White fan. He’s uncouth, loudmouthed, and overall way more entertaining than most any other fight promoter in the game today. This time, I think his impulsiveness got the better of him in a big way. His explosion came off as childish and mean spirited. To his credit, he has backed off of his initial comments a bit, but to my knowledge I don’t think he’s apologized to Jones, which is really what he ought to do. It almost makes me think that maybe Tito Ortiz didn’t deserve all the heat that White gave him back in the day.

Back on point, after White’s rant ran its course Jones didn’t do himself any favors. He sent out twitter messages taking the blame for the cancellation, gave statements backing off of that position, trying to explain himself reasonably, and generally receiving even more hatred for each successive effort. He’s got a habit of making these wishy washy and unpopular statements. It’s like he’s trying really hard to be honest, but look good at the same time. The end result is that he doesn’t really achieve either goal.

The media backlash against him has been horrendous. Fighters are blaming him for their missed paychecks because of the event’s cancellation. I’ve heard that he was willing to pay their paychecks for the cancellation, but in the end rescinded the offer because some of them were talking trash about him. Now I don’t feel he was obligated to do this at all, but putting that out there and then taking it back is a really dick move. It makes him seem petty and malicious. I hate that there is just a continuous shitstorm surrounding this guy’s reputation, because I really want to like him. He’s an incredible talent, a young and masterful competitor, and despite all the bad press, I think he’s probably a genuinely good guy. The fact is, he’s wearing the crown, and that sucker weighs a ton. Everybody and their mother is trying to set jones up for a fall. They want him to crash and burn like Tyson did. Even Iron Mike made some remarks about the parallels.

“I had millions of dollars during my life but I didn’t have a support system. I had a bad support system, so I received bad support. Nobody really knows Jon Jones and he is now in a time that is vital to his career. We know him as a great fighter and the way he carriers himself, as a great individual, a humanitarian.
But is he going to let the bright lights and the dark shadows invade his life? Will he be one of those rising meteors that flies through the air and lights the world up, but then dies down in a moment? I hope not.
You live and you learn from mistakes.
Hopefully I can use some of my downfalls to make myself better, make people around me better and show that you can come back from anything.”

That’s some damn good advice if I’ve ever heard it. No one lives well in isolation. Community is everything. Jones needs to make sure his gym has his best interests in mind. Which leads me nicely into my next topic: Greg Jackson and his gym. I feel like I need to add Mike Winklejohn into that introduction. Let’s try that again: Greg Jackson, Mike Winklejohn, and their gym.

Much better. That guy is badass striking coach.

But the focus will still remain on Jackson, who despite taking heat from Dana White for “murdering” the sport, has probably done more to advance the scientific aspects of it than anybody outside of the Gracie family. His level of innovation and introduction of creative and effective game-planning to the sport has really revolutionized every fighter’s approach to fights. Perhaps I’m giving him a little too much credit, but I’m a pretty hardcore fan and I couldn’t name the Blackzillians head coach off the top of my head. A lot of folks could, but the point I’m trying to make is that Jackson has a level of notoriety and recognition that is well deserved.

Every fight he’s involved in is masterfully and meticulously prepared for. Though he’s taken a lot of criticism for putting some lackluster fights together stylistically, you can’t argue with the results he’s achieved. His cerebral approach to the mma game is a credit to his own immense IQ, and it enriches the sport as a whole. Dana White’s statements concerning the camp were overly emotional and in my opinion, pretty immature.

Now, back to Jones. He should have taken the fight. I mean come on. He had a full camp and a clear size and reach, and striking advantage, and a debatable grappling advantage. He clearly thinks he can beat Sonnen. I understand his reasoning though. Sonnen is a high level fighter, and deserves more than 8 days of careful preparation. Also 8 days before a fight means maybe 3 or 4 days of training. It’s just not enough time. Except that he’d been preparing for Dan Henderson, who’s got a comparable ground game to Sonnen, and way better stand up. It’s not like Jon Jones hadn’t been working on takedown defense. If he can stuff Sonnen’s takedowns, and he totally could, the fight’s over in under 2 minutes. Maybe 3 because Chael is a tough S.O.B. but even he can’t take the level of punishment Jones is known to dish out on an off day.

It’s well-trodden ground so I’ll just address this point quickly. Dan Henderson should have pulled out of the fight as soon as he’d injured himself. He might have thought he could pull through and fight admirably by september 1st, but he had to know that he wasn’t going to be 100% no matter how much TRT he pumped in pre-fight. I know it can be a complex situation if you think you’re going to fight with a slight injury, but Hendo had to know that going in against an opponent as dangerous as Jones at anything other than peak physical condition is suicide. If that thought hadn’t crossed his mind, then he is taking Jones way too lightly or taking the money entirely too seriously. He’s made plenty of cash in his long and storied career, and approximately none of it is worth being beaten to death by a human/mantis hybrid like Jones.

Then there’s the conspiracy theories. Sonnen might have known about the injury before the UFC did, an idea made extremely feasible considering his close connection to team Quest. He did start talking smack about Jon Jones right around the time that Hendo got injured or shortly thereafter. He could have been trying to set up a fight with his most powerful asset: his mouth. Or he could have just been being Chael. We’ll never know, but it’s fun to speculate. I like to think there are tons of back alley dealings with MMA. Hopefully a tell-all book written by Kenny Florian or some such other guy who never quite made it will come out in 15 years detailing all of the nitty gritty. Until then I say Vince McMahon masterminded the whole thing.

When it comes down to it there was just an infinite amount of blame to pass to the left on everyone’s behalf. The UFC carries the ultimate responsibility for cancelling the card, because they’re the ones who made the call. They didn’t have a strong enough card to sell without Jones, they didn’t have a backup plan in place, and they didn’t have a deep enough talent pool to provide a credible replacement opponent in the light heavyweight division. Jones could hand should have taken the fight with Sonnen regardless, but didn’t because of a justifiably over cautious approach to fighting fostered by a very erudite  coaching staff.  There’s also an ego component in there. Jones definitely didn’t want to give a shot to Sonnen for a few reasons. I’ve mentioned one already, but he also didn’t want to fight Sonnen, because he hasn’t earned a shot at light heavyweight. This is more speculation than fact, but it’s a legacy issue as well. Sonnen’s career has been made by being good enough to provide a credible challenge to the man widely considered to be the greatest of all time. Jones is looking to take that title for himself. If he loses to Sonnen, or merely beats him in a less impressive fashion  than Silva, his record and legacy are forever besmirched. People will always compare Sonnen’s title fights, and the respective champions that he challenged. I propose that Jones doesn’t want to be on the losing end of that comparison.

Who can blame him? That’s why Silva is really anxious to fight GSP and not Jon Jones. He wants to be remembered as the greatest fighter of his era, not a great fighter that lost to the greatest fighter ever. Just the fact that the two of them will have opponents in common is enough to get the argument started. Jones wants to pad his record a bit more before even thinking about that spectrum of infamy.